Bargain Bash! Uma Nota and Footprints in An Honest Farewell

Anyone who's lived in Toronto for some time knows about Honest Ed's. For decades of Toronto's history, the big, tacky store at Bathurst and Bloor was THE destination for cheap housewares, gaudy colour schemes and corny puns on hand-painted signs. ("Welcome, don't faint at our low prices, there's no place to lie down" and "Only the floors are crooked!" are just a couple of examples.)In a recent post, Judith Cohen, an ethnomusicologist, folk musician and longtime member of the Uma Nota community (she's also the mother of performing artist Tamar Ilana), remembers some of the things she'd find at her "corner store" of 33 years.

“Everything” included... VHS tapes (back in the day)! The lowest pharmacy fees. Toothpaste.  Photo albums at a fraction of camera store prices. Batteries. Coffee mugs. Kettles. Shower curtains. Socks. Kitchen clocks. Boots. Tinned sardines. Italian and Portuguese cooking oil. Light bulbs. Toys. When my daughter was little, I could outfit her for a summer for $20.Non-stick (sort of) frying pans. Bath towels, and beach towels with improbable designs. Blue jeans with only a few loose threads.  Sturdy fall jackets. Dubious Birkenstock sandal imitations. Plastic lawn chairs. Bookshelves. Picture frames. Knitting wool. Clothes drying racks. Garish skirts and blouses labeled, with insouciant mendaciousness, “Fashion.” Hanukkah candles and chocolate coins, and for Passover, kosher matzah, grape juice and candied fruit.

The store's fame owed much to the late Ed Mirvish himself, an outgoing and jovial character whose giant retail operation paved the way for the Mirvish theatre production empire and the beloved Mirvish Village area on Markham St. beside the store. The theatre productions will continue, but the village will meet its end when the store, long since sold off, is demolished, turned into condos and retail units by its new owners. (The famous giant illuminated sign is being relocated to the Mirvish Theatre in the Entertainment District, The Globe and Mail reports.)While the "the longest goodbye in retail history," which included sales of all those hand-painted signs and the last of many clearance items, finished up on Dec. 31, 2016, there's a final series of events taking place in the giant old building in the Annex, and we invite you to participate.Design by General EclecticIt's all happening as part of a four-day sendoff called An Honest Farewell, organized as part of the Toronto For Everyone "co-creating our city" initiative by The Centre for Social Innovation."We believe that Toronto can be the global model for inclusivity, community and social innovation," the Toronto For Everyone website explains. "Honest Ed’s may be closing its doors, but Ed’s legacy is his unique ability to foster community can carry on. For years, Ed opened his doors to immigrant families, hosted street parties and gave away free turkeys. Now it’s time for us to carry the torch through all of our city and community building initiatives, starting with TO4E this February 23-26, 2017."Honest Ed's get-down finale is called Bargain Bash (tickets here), happening on Saturday, February 25 starting at 9 p.m."Join us as we bring together some of the hottest dance parties in Toronto, all under one roof, for one truly epic Saturday night farewell extravaganza," T4EO invites. "Explore the newly empty rooms transformed, bask in palpable nostalgia and find yourself on one of three dance floors, participating in a night made for the history books."Featuring:

  • Footprints DJs Jason Palma and General Eclectic. Live Afro-Brazilian drumming performance by Maracatu Mar Aberto (presented by Uma Nota).
  • Electro Swing TO, Toronto's original speakeasy dance party, featuring resident DJs Medicineman & The Great Grantsby.
  • Hip hop, dancehall, soca, reggae, afrobeats and good music brought to you by Dre Ngozi and DJ Bambii.

This is a special one-off jam for the Bargain Bash festivities.Our groove affair goes down in the former Bad Boy space on Bathurst, and features the deep dance floor vinyl selections of Footprints DJs Jason Palma and General Eclectic with the polyrhythmic release of an Uma Nota live show, represented here with powerful Afro-Brazilian Maracatu rhythms and songs.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSfsypAACdw[/embed]At Bargain Bash, we present Maracatu Mar Aberto, whose thundering bass drums and rich, layered percussion hold the rhythm for beautiful Afro-Brazilian songs. Performing as a special guest with the maracatu drummers is Brazilian vocalist and past Uma Nota featured artist Flávia Nascimento, an award-winning singer/songwriter living in Quebec and recording original Brazilian-Canadian music.

Foot Prints LIVE DJ Mix - April 27th, 2013 Part 1 by Footprints Toronto on Mixcloud

Meanwhile, with a shared belief that you can't know your future until you know your past, Footprints DJs Jason Palma and General Eclectic showcase their unique all-inclusive approach to DJing and crate-digging at the monthly, vinyl-heavy open format dance party. Steadily packed with soulful dancers for the past 14+ years, Footprints is where Palma and G.E. connect the dots between wide varieties of music, from Funk, Soul, Disco, Afrobeat, Latin and Brazilian to Dub, Reggae, Electro, House and Hip Hop.What else can you expect? How about custom visual projections by Pleasurecraft Studio, an opening drum and horn parade  into the space to honour the local community and history, and other surprises.Stay current on party updates with our Facebook event page and join us for Bargain Bash on February 25, along with Electroswing TO and Manifesto's High Power crew, and celebrate the official farewell party for Honest Ed's.

The Soul Motivators funk up Toronto with their debut EP release

If you're a lover of funk and soul music and you live in Toronto, the chances are you've already heard of The Soul Motivators. The nine-piece band has been together only a short time, but has hustled and sweated and played tirelessly to appear in numerous funk shows, festivals and special events around town in the one year-plus since they've been together.  These eight guys and one soulful mama don't miss many chances to do their thing.  What's most impressive is that the band has kept up the pace of their many shows, all while spending months in the studio recording their debut self-titled EP, which drops this March 2013 with shows in Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.Soul MotivatorsThe Soul Motivators, as their website bio describes them, are "here to restore your faith in funk." Their sound, guitarist and co-founder Voltaire Ramos explains, harkens back to something of a bygone era. Why do they want this sound? "It’s nostalgia for honest, authentic, non-commercially-driven music," he says. "It’s music from the gut ... you can really hear the gritty honesty just oozing out of '70s funk. I think the sound we love is driven by something other than chasing dollars and commercial success."That analog, one-take approach from their favourite '60s and '70s records remains a driving inspiration for their sound. They even limited themselves to eight microphones in the session, to "create that retro style and sound."Ramos notes that the band's members all came to funk -- along with influences like classic hip-hop, soul and Afrobeat -- in a number of ways. In his case, it was growing up in the '80s near Trinity Bellwoods Park and in the '90s in Rexdale where his crate-digging tendencies came about. "I was surrounded by hip-hop the whole time. I loved the fat bass lines, the drum breaks, the scratchy rhythm guitar, and the horns that were all over the samples they’d use," he says, citing the likes of Pete Rock & CL Smooth, NAS, A Tribe Called Quest and others as early references. "I started exploring the music they sampled and pretty much found a treasure trove of awesome music: obscure soul, funk, jazz – music that you would never hear on commercial radio."He also mentions that through the late-'90s Movement parties in Toronto, helmed by DJ Jason Palma, he learned to see the connections between different styles of music as diverse as hip-hop, house, Afrobeat, Latin, blues and soul. Other members of The Soul Motivators may have different trajectories for finding the music they wanted to make with this project, but they've ended up together in a formation that allows them to produce the sounds they love.The band formed in 2011 after Ramos, drummer Doug Melville and keyboard player James Robinson decided to change up the funk approach from a previous group they'd been in (Ambassadors, circa 2009).  "We wanted to explore a rawer, grittier sound." They soon connected with bassist Marc Shapiro of King Sunshine, and added him on, along with the three-man horn section of Nathan Dell-Vandenberg (trombone), Dominique Morier (saxophone) and Thomas Moffett (trumpet). Next came vocalist Lydia Persaud and finally, percussionist Nigel Pitt on congas, bells and other fun rhythmic elements.The Soul Motivators - Gravy Train from Orange Peel Pictures on Vimeo.Soul Motivators caught the attention of Toronto's CBC Radio One early on: Until the Sun Goes Down was a track of the week on the afternoon show Here and Now, and Gravy Train, another signature tune, received a fair bit of airplay. After we heard Gravy Train, we had to ask about the story behind the song, and its composer, keyboard player James Robinson obliged:"As a songwriter, I wanted to pay tribute to James Brown's soul divas - Lyn Collins, Marva Whitney et al. They'd sing songs of empowerment after being messed around by a no-good man. There's a universality to that, just as many of us have been hard done by in the recent economic downtown. So it's a two-fold response to those two scenarios. Of course, you can infer a little 'local flavour' if you wish (not naming any names; nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more). This song gets a good reaction at shows because lyrically it appeals to Toronto. But more than that, its a soulful 12-bar groove you'd find on a dusty, old 45. A rare gem from the bottom of the crate. And it makes you wanna move!"Of the many gigs they've played in their year or so together, the band counts high-profile opening slots for the likes of Lee Fields and Afrika Bambaataa (this past fall 2012) among the highlights, but they have also played memorable happenings like Footprints' Halloween jam last October and parties at the Great Hall such as CirQlar's Shag in February 2012 and Jen Orenstein of Maracatu Mar Aberto's recent My Funky Valentine bash. (They also maintain a monthly residency at the Orbit Room every second Thursday of the month.) And while it may surprise those who think of Toronto as a cultural hotspot, Ramos gives the prize for most memorable audience to a gig in Hamilton (then again, this may not surprise anyone who's been to a (non-Uma Nota) show in Toronto in the last, oh, several years)."It was only about 150 people but the reception was crazy, it was rammed, " says Ramos. "People were literally jumping in the air, kicking their shoes off, pouring out this intense energy to us. We had no choice but to pour it right back." For pure electricity at a show, he says nothing has quite touched that night in Hamilton so far.But with the EP release coming up, the band has a few special treats in store. For one, they will perform never-before-heard originals along with a slate of new cover tunes, as well as their other original tunes from the album. They will also try a DJ-live band collaboration, starting from a vinyl track and using it to transition to the live band performance, a first for the Soul Motivators in concert.Get ready to motivate yourself onto that dance floor, if you know what's good for you.The Soul Motivators Toronto EP release takes place on Friday, March 15, with the Soul Motivators live alongside DJs Andy B. Bad and Voltaire (of the Soul Surrender series). Venue: Bite, 423 College St. Tickets: $10 cover at the door.  Doors: 10 p.m.  More info: Soul Motivators websiteFacebook event pageCover art for the Soul Motivators' self-titled debut EP

Afro Connections: Wunmi in Toronto

Africa has long been regarded as ground zero for the beat and the sole birthplace of rhythm. Without exaggeration, it is the very epicentre from which an endless stream of beat-driven music has flowed since day one. But while the continent itself is as varied musically as anywhere else in the world, we tend to use just one single word to describe the many polyrhythmic influences this part of the globe has given us. That word, of course, is "Afro."Now, this word tends to gets tossed around a lot, but nowhere in the world is it more at home than in Brazil, where rhythmical styles like Samba, Maracatu and Batucada trace their lineage from the African experience.This Saturday's show at Revival in Toronto will feature a great musical encounter from these two areas of the world:For one, we'll showcase the one and only Wunmi from Nigeria. She first appeared back in the late '90s, collaborating with the likes of Bugz In The Attic, Masters At Work and Osunlade and helping to kickstart the whole neo-Afrobeat scene that would soon spread across underground movements in both the U.K. and the U.S. Her stage presence, style of musical attack and singing voice are comparable to greats that have come before her (namely Fela Kuti and Victor Oliaya, among others). What's interesting to note is that while she remains true to this long line of Afrobeat legends, she is a woman in an field traditionally dominated by men. This combination of sensitivity and vulnerability coupled with a hard-edged stage presence creates something entirely new to be experienced and is sure to make this weekends show very special indeed. (More about Wunmi on her very nicely designed website.)The other part of this Saturday's show (a co-production with United Soul) is a showcase of our Uma Nota mainstays Maracatu Mar Aberto. Billed this time out as Mar Aberto Percussion, this performance will feature a pared-down version of our beloved super group playing various drums and instruments alongside myself, DJ General Eclectic. Expect to hear a broad cross section of Brazilian music, specifically Afro-Brazilian styles like Samba, Bossa Nova and MPB alongside newer underground beat productions. This will be our first DJs-and-drumbeats type of event since our three-day festival last November, so we're all super excited to create a dynamic showcase and also reconnect with our music-loving community! See more about the event on our Facebook event page.